Being and staying an optimist – is it possible?

In today’s world many things look upside down and to be and/or stay optimistic, can be a challenge.  Changes come quickly and it can make us feel as if Mother Earth is spinning too fast.  If there is one thing that is a certainty, it is change.  Change is inevitable; nothing in life is permanent; it is part of life.  So, how do you cope with it? 

Stop and breathe!  Take a few slow, deep breathes in (counting to 8 or 10) and slowly exhale through your mouth.  Instead of turning every hiccup, every change, into a crisis, see it as a challenge.  No matter how “dark” the road ahead looks, there is really and truly a light at the end of the tunnel.  I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but there cannot be a rainbow without the rain.  More often than not, your ego will go into overdrive and your mind will be filled with “what if, but.”  Alas, this will make you worry, stress and overthink far too much.  When you step back and look at whatever life is throwing at you (as if you are watching a movie scene), then you will notice that you can and are able to deal with it. 

Indeed, when a tragedy strikes it can be more difficult, but trust me, time does heal and you will cope.  We are far stronger inside than what we give ourselves credit for.  The ego, although it serves a purpose, should not be given the “go ahead” to overrule our common sense, gut instinct and our heart.  When we are in a state of peace (even when the going gets tough), then we can look at situations much more objectively.  Instead of letting our emotions (ego) take over, our intellect and gut instinct will know what to do, how to react and that “this too shall pass.”  Here are a few tips to help you become and/or stay an optimist.

Wise up

With so many viewpoints, opinions, news outlets and more, it can become overwhelming to know who and what to believe.  Luckily there are books and the internet, that one can go to if not sure about the facts.  Do your research, ask questions and take stock / make a list of what you know and what you don’t about a situation, health diagnosis, and so on.  According to Travis Bradberry (co-writer of the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0), putting pen to paper can take the power away from the unknown.

Meet your inner cavewoman / -man 

Our inner alarm bells, the “fight or flight-response,” goes off when we are worried and stressed.  Stress, in small doses, can be healthy because it makes us more alert and kick our mind and gut feeling into action.  However, too much stress can be dangerous to both ourselves and the people around us.  Thus, step back and take a deep breath (as mentioned in the beginning).  Your nerves meet / come together in your naval-area.  Taking deep breathes in and out and focusing on relaxing that part of the body, will quickly put us in a more relaxed and clear-headed state of mind.

Embrace the chaos 

If you imagine being a feather that is blown by the wind, never knowing where you will end up next, does it make you anxious; or is there a sense of freedom?  People want to be in control most of the time, but this often backfires when external forces make you believe that you have failed in some way.  Instead of feeling believing that you cannot do this or do that, do what you can and remember that you are human.  Instead of focusing on / seeing something as a loss, see it as a gain.  Don’t “catastrophise” a situation / change; see it as an opportunity.

Keep your feet on the ground 

When your life takes a turn into the uncertainty, past hurts / disappointments can creep up and make us worry about the future.  Stop and bring yourself and your thoughts back into the now / present moment.  The past is gone and the future is not yet here.  Breathe, do some yoga poses, go outside and connect with nature, take a bath, or put on some uplifting music and stay centred in the present moment.

Trust your gut instincts 

The tummy acts as our “third brain.”  Together with the head and heart, these 3 make a great time to keep us centred, relaxed and in the now.  Stop ignoring the little voice inside your head; don’t ignore that nagging feeling in your gut.  Life will be so much easier if more people will listen to their inner voice, their instincts.  Whether you tune in during your quiet time or when you are exercising, get in touch with yourself.  Albert Einstein got his best ideas when sailing, for example!

Train your brain 

Instead of allowing our thoughts (ego-based) to trample our brain, cloud our judgement and make as unnecessarily anxious or stressful, replace those negatives with positives.  It is often during the night, when we get into bed, that these thoughts creep up, because then we become quiet and the world around us as well.  Dr. John Demartini calls it “have an attitude of gratitude.”  Whatever life is throwing at you at this very moment, know that you’ve been through similar situations before and you came out stronger.  Being centred and grateful for all the positive things, people and situations in your life, at this very moment, will transform the difficult into something that is easy and/or attainable.

Being optimistic when the world around us go mad, is not easy, I agree.  Staying an optimist can even been trickier.  However, by using our breath and becoming centred and stilling our minds, can help us to cope better.  Just saying thank you for the people and things we do have in our lives, is already a step into the right direction.

The Universe will give you what you want when you are grateful and thankful for that which you already have.  Sometimes you might not get something or someone, but always know and trust that the Universe / Divinity only wants what is best for you.  “Look up and look pleased!”

Ageing – part of life and not the end of the world

Age is but a number – or so the saying goes.  Getting older is not something that anyone can stop.  Even with the latest skincare products and other treatments today, all of us are going to get older at some point in time. I do believe that what we say to ourselves and others regarding ageing, plays a huge role in how quickly we become old.  I have met many “young” 70- / 80-year folks, and I have met “old” 60-year folks.  It is a mindset indeed! Although ageing is an inevitable part of life, there are some proactive ways to follow, that will ensure that you look and feel your best, regardless of your age.

Healthy eating

“You are what you eat” and if you want to stay healthy for longer, then limit your intake of alcohol, sugar, salt and processed foods.  Add more wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, unsaturated fats, dairy and healthy carbohydrates, to your diet.  This will help you maintain a healthy heart and healthy weight, as well as lower your risk for a stroke and high cholesterol.  When your eating habits are balanced, it will help the body in fighting off inflammation (which can lead to artery, joint, tissue and organ damage, as well as cause arthritis).

Increasing your intake of berries, green tea, cacao, Omega-3 fatty acids (found in pilchards and salmon), walnuts, flaxseeds, calcium-rich foods like bony fish, dairy and seeds, can aid the ageing body to stay healthy and strong.  Red peppers, guava, citrus foods and tomato, are also beneficial.  Not only for their vitamin content, but also for collagen production.  Collagen is important for skin elasticity and firmness, and declines as we get older.

A good multi-vitamin supplement, as well as added Vitamin C, Calcium & Magnesium (with Boron and Zinc), as well as Omega 3 & 6, can be added to your diet.  Vitamin D is another important vitamin.  No matter where you live, if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, then make sure to take vitamin D.  It is important for brain functioning and can help to keep depression and/or moodiness, at bay.  Brands like Solal, Solgar, Biogen, Vital, Vitaforce and Nutrivite, are good.

Drink enough water

As we age, our sense of thirst can be inhibited due to our age.  Thus, make sure to drink enough water daily to avoid dehydration this can lead to fatigue, constipation, headaches, fuzzy thinking and even an inability to cope well with heat.  Drinking enough water will energize your muscles, assist with kidney and bowel function, balance the body’s fluids, keep your skin supple, as well as assist with weight maintenance.  According to the latest research, women should aim for 8 – 9 cups of water and men around 13.  Do remember that black tea, without added milk and sugar, can also count as water.  Fizzy water (sparkling water, however, does not count, as it often contains added sugar, etc).  Too many caffeinated drinks; and especially sugary drinks, can cause the skin to wrinkle and cell structures to harden.

Drinking alcohol in moderation, or staying clear of it completely, is another important habit to learn and follow (even when we are younger).  Not only does excessive drinking deplete the body of nutrients needed for cell regeneration and carrying oxygen, but it can also create havoc in your life in general.

Research indicates that resveratrol (found in red wine), has anti-ageing properties.  Do remember that you do not have to finish the bottle!  Instead, follow the French…they have one small glass of wine every evening with their meal.

Exercising

Not only does it help you to lose those extra kilo’s and maintain a healthy weight, but it is vital to keep moving to keep circulation going.  After the age of 30, your body does not make bones anymore; thus, it is vital to keep doing weight-bearing exercises to help the body to build and maintain strong bones.  Any exercise like walking, swimming, cycling, Pilates, Yoga and Water (Aqua) Aerobics, are good ways to maintain flexibility, strong bones, and overall health.

Time and again research have proven that exercise boosts endorphins (the happy hormones) and promotes better brain power.  Walking just 10 minutes a day can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 40%, as well as reduce anxiety and stress (which have an effect on your brain’s ageing).  “Movement is life;” so put on your trainers and get the blood pumping!

We all know that smoking has been linked, time and again, to lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.  But did you know it can also speed up ageing?  When you smoke, the carbon monoxide and nicotine displace oxygen and reduces the blood flow to your skin, leaving it dry, discoloured and dull.  Many vital nutrients also get lost due to smoking and yes, even if you take supplements, the damage caused by smoking (e-cigarettes included), is long-term and permanent.  Best never to start!

Stress less

Stress increases the amount of cortisol and norepinephrine-hormones, whilst suppressing your immune system.  When you are constantly stressing, it leads to the hardening of your arteries, not to mention the negative effect it has on your mood, energy levels and your interactions with those around you.  Long-term stress can also cause an inability to learn, compromised memory capacity and premature ageing.

Therefore, how you manage your time is important.  Making time for socializing, sleeping well, eating healthy, keeping active, resting / relaxing, quitting smoking and drinking moderately, can all help you live a balanced and happy life. Just being in nature, reading a book, listening to uplifting music, or meditating, will decrease your stress levels and help the body to excrete the “happy hormones” serotonin. Taking a few slow, deep breathes in and sighing it out, will not only help you to relax more, but also to release a lot of stress.

Snoozing

Not getting enough and / or a good night’s rest regularly, can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain and looking far older and tired than what you are.  Having a good night’s rest boost your memory and concentration, reduces the risk of a heart attack and stroke, and also improves your mood.  It is during sleep that the human growth hormone-production (HGH) is at its highest.  This hormone doesn’t only play a part in looking younger, but also helps you to have have more energy, feel revitalized and ready for the day.  Taking a nap (power nap) is another good way to feel re-energized and revitalized.

Socializing

Socializing is good for our physical, emotional and cognitive health.  People who connect on social levels can also cope better with stress.  So, whether you are sending an e-mail, WhatsApp, phoning someone or getting together, make time for your friends and family.

We cannot stop Father Clock from ticking, but we can change the way in which we change.  Making changes to live a healthier, happier and balanced life, will not only add more years to your life, but will also let you age gracefully and with more peace of mind. 

Lip-talk

Our lips are used for talking, smiling, kissing, singing, laughing and so much more. Like our hands, nose and ears, they are exposed to the elements; therefore they need some TLC all year round.

Whether it is just a dry, sunny day; or a cold, winter morning, our lips can become quite dry when exposed to the elements.  This is because our lips have no sebaceous glands, very little melanin, and a very thin layer of skin.  Chapped lips are not uncommon; often accompanied with dryness, itchiness and/or pain.  Small cracks can also appear in the corners of the mouth.  Often people tend to lick their lips, but rather use a good lip balm, as licking one’s dry lips will only aggravate the symptoms.

The cracks in the corner of the mouth can relate to the dryness, due to a blocked nose, but it can also be an indication of a lack of Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is not stored in the body, but excreted when we go to the bathroom.  Therefore, I would suggest that you take your vitamin C every day – preferably in the morning before you eat breakfast.  There are many different brands on the market to choose from; I use one that is buffered, so that it does not irritate my stomach.

Our lips, just like our bodies, needs exfoliation and moisturizing.  You can either use a moist facecloth or a soft toothbrush to gently exfoliate the lips.  Once done, remember to put on something like Vaseline lip balm, to moisturize the lips.

The dreaded cold sore or fever blister often pops-up when least welcome!  It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (type-1 strain) and enters the body through a cracked mouth corner or break in the skin inside / around the mouth.  Once inside the body, the virus lies dormant in your skin’s nerve cells.  Many of us know – once you get it, the chances of it recurring is doubled!  So; be careful not to kiss someone who has a cold sore, don’t share utensils, razors, lip balm or towels.  The only thing this virus needs in order to “show it’s face” again, is a cold or flu, stress, fatigue, menstruation and even too much time in the sun!

So…what do you do when you feel the tingling and/or burning sensation that is the start of a cold sore or fever blister?  Go to a pharmacy and get yourself an over-the-counter ointment, with Acyclovir in.  The ointment will form a layer over the sore, smothering it.  This extra layer can be left, or you can very carefully, using a soft tissue, peel off the ointment-layer (it often looks like skin peeling).  Just make sure that you don’t try and peel off the parts that are still stuck; if you do it’ll start bleeding and then the cold sore will take longer to heal.  Do not scratch it, even when it starts to itch.  Itching is normally a sign that signals healing.  If it gets worse, rather scratch or rub around the cold sore; this will lessen the itching and will keep you from aggravating the cold sore. If a cold sore doesn’t clear up after a couple of days; or if it gets worse, go see your medical practitioner. 

Remember to always wash your hands before you eat, before you prepare a meal, when you went to the bathroom, to the shops, and especially after you have put ointment on your cold sore.  Teach your children to do the same – with all the germs today one cannot be too careful! 

As mentioned earlier, vitamin C, used daily, is very important.  Make sure your immune system is strong 365 days of the year.  A good B-complex, that includes B6 & B12, are good to take; especially during times of stress.  A multi-vitamin is also a good idea.  A wonderful product to use, that helps the body to maintain healthy tissue and gums, is L-Lysine.  It is an essential amino acid that our bodies cannot produce and plays a vital role in combating fever blisters.

Come rain, come sun, come snow – exfoliate and moisturize your lips regularly.  If you are in the sun use a lip balm or lipstick with added protection against the sun.  If you are out in the cold, wind, rain or snow, then use something with added moisturizer in. And for the rest of the day, keep smiling!

Your feet – storytellers just like your hands

When asked, what do you look at when you observe people, many would say their feet or the shoes they wear.  Our feet are, together with our legs, the pillars on which the rest of the body sits.  They work non-stop and often than not, get a bit neglected when it comes to exercising and stretching the muscles in the feet.

Feet are vital parts of the body – vital for our mobility, quality of life and even survival!  Did you know, that there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles and 107 ligaments, in each foot??  That is simply amazing!!  No wonder the feet have been referred to as a perfect marriage of form and function.

The feet’s skin, like that of the hands, might look quite ordinary.  However, in reality it is a complex marvel of fat pads, pores and blood vessels, all working together to ensure that every step taken, is balanced and evenly pressured.  The tightly-stretched sole of the foot contains the thickest skin of the human body.  It is criss-crossed by a set of creases that react to pressure from walking, running and standing.  The sole includes as many as 200 000 (!) extremely sensitive nerve endings, which explains why it can hurt if you step on a pebble, why something can make it itch, and why our feet are often quite ticklish! It is also the reason why a foot massage, or a shiatsu-, acupressure- or reflexology-session, can make you feel relaxed and/or sleepy afterwards.

Feet can vary in size, shape and form.  Research has indicated that the human foot has changed over thousands of years.  Many years ago, Edward Rutherford wrote books about these changes by researching families throughout the ages.  He concluded that people with long prehensile toes, were water people, who needed length for gripping branches and rocks.  Short, stubby toed people (on the other hand), were from agrarian cultures, who lived and worked on the land.

Toenails, like finger nails, are nature’s great protectors.  It consists of multiple layers of protein-rich tissue, a growth-promoting matrix, as well as several delicate membranes designed to protect the toes (and body) against bacterial invasion, as well as prevent infection.  Toenails also protect the ends of our toes from injuries via the delicate sensation exerted on our toes when we walk, run or stand.  They grow quite slowly – approximately 1mm per month.

I don’t know about you, but as I got older, my shoe-size changed.  There was also a time when I didn’t think twice about wearing high heeled-shoes.  Today?  Yes, I still wear them, but the heal is not higher than 10 cm.  Speaking about high heels.  Did you know that, the more you wear high heels, the bigger chance of your Achilles tendon shortening?  This will cause your body weight to be pushed forward; causing your spine to become out of alignment as you push your gluteus out and your weight onto the toes, in order to stay upright and walk in the shoes?

Wearing high heels is not a bad thing; however, it is important, ladies, that you don’t wear them all day, every day.  If you wear high heels for work or when you are going out, take them off once you are home and either walk bare feet, or wear flats.

Certain times of the year our feet can become more prone to dryness and/or corns or calluses.  Depending on where you live, dry, hot air can cause the feet to dry out because we are either walking bare feet, or wearing sandals.  The heels, especially, can dry out quite quickly and can even become hard.  It is not just the dry air and/or sun that can cause dryness, but also the type of shoes we wear.

Therefore, it is always a good idea to either go for a pedicure, or have your own pedicure at home.  If a shoe is too tight it will cause the feet to not only become achy and tired, but with regular wear it’ll cause bunions, calluses, and so on.  If you are wearing high heels all day, every day, put a gel- or other material cushion inside your shoes.  Some brands sell these separate; one for under the toes and the other for under the heels; or you can use an inner sole that’ll act as a shock-absorber, so to speak.

The nails, just like your skin, needs oxygen.  Taking a break in-between nail polish will help to maintain the nails health and colour.  Wearing nail polish for too long, or never going without it, can cause discoloration of the nails over time.

There are many products on the market today that promises to get rid of dry heels, calluses, and so forth.  I cannot tell you which product is best or not, but what I can mention is to put cotton socks on, after you have put your foot cream on, to help absorb the cream.  If you suffer from ingrown toenails, maybe have part of the nail permanently removed.  If corns and/or calluses are troubling you, go see a medical professional.  Do not play around if your toe / toenail is red and/or swollen.  It can be the start of either an ingrown toenail, but more often than not, it is the beginning of an infection.  Tea tree oil is a good, natural product to use.  However, I would recommend to see a medical professional if the symptoms persist or get worse, as you might need anti-bacterial, anti-fungal or antiseptic ointment.

All in all – take the time and make the time, to take better care of your feet.  Stretch them just as you would the rest of your body; make sure you wash them and dry them properly to keep infections at bay; and if they are tired, then lift your feet up (preferably higher than your hips). Give your feet the attention and rest they deserve; after all, you need them as much as you need that coffee-break!

Our hands: a perpetual miracle

Have you ever really looked at your hands?  If so, then you must have marvelled at the intricate mechanism of bone, muscle and sinew!  Not to mention the blood vessels and metatarsals working non-stop. Many, many years ago, one of our funny-looking ancestors crept onto the shore and survived, by learning to use his fins for crawling, creeping and gripping.

Time passed, evolution continued, and this creature learnt to survive on land; his fins became his hands and his tail, his legs.  Yes, I can hear many of you saying this is debatable, but hear me out.  A human embryo in his mother’s womb, goes through these same evolution-steps.  Around the 4th week millions of cells are hastening their growth in the little tadpole-like creature.  From the neck part, a pair of little bosses sprout, rapidly elongating into three segments. 

The outer parts become paddle-shaped and 5 lobes appear on the edges.  Muscles, tendons and nerve fibres begin to develop. About the 3rd month, the little flapper’s miniature fingers begin to move and flex, and there is the human hand!  When the whole little mannikin leaves his “private retreat” his small, almost miniature fingers, clutch and grab with amazing strength.  From now onwards, these human hands that is directed by the brain, will prove how we differ from many other inhabitants on earth.

Looking a bit deeper, have you ever thought of what a handshake means, except from being used as a form of greeting?  It doesn’t last long, but can express “please to meet you,” “hallo,” “good bye,” and so on.  A flabby handclasp / handshake can tell you that a person is ineffectual and nervous; a firm, warm clasp tells you that a person is friendly, sympathetic and has a good self-image.  Our hands can be used to hold a baby or small animal tenderly, or it can be used to express anger and rage in a closed fist.  In prayer our hands express gratitude and blessings, in begging the hands express greed and want.

There is a saying “we talk with our hands.”  Some people like to use their hands whilst talking.  As an extension of our arms, our hands talk when we embrace a loved one, when we wave goodbye and when we are playing sports, making music, creating something (art or cooking), with ease and precision!

Note to self: when you are upset with your child, spouse, or whoever, just remember: you might be pointing a finger at them while you “blow off steam,” but the other 4 fingers are all pointing back at you! Energy goes out, but also comes back!

When you want to grasp or touch something, for example, an array of muscles, joints and tendons, all the way from the shoulder to the fingertips, are brought into use.  To eat a spoonful of pudding involves about 30 joints and 50 muscles; if your 7th cervical vertebrae is out of alignment, then your 4th and 5th fingers are numb and “useless.”

Think of your thumb – have you ever tried writing, eating or working without using it? The thumb is an important part of our hands and operated in a completely different way than the other four fingers.  It can work together with any of the other fingers, yet the 4 fingers are lost, as it were, without the thumb.  For some people, the thumb symbolizes willpower and logic; for others it is a sign of extravagance, especially if the thumb curves back at the waist.  The thumb is a very strong limb.  Years ago, a child of about a year old, crawled underneath a car and was found, unharmed, miles further just by clutching on!

It can take a long time for someone who has lost his / her thumb, to get used to using only the other four fingers.  Our thumbs help us to grab onto something when we are about to fall, it helps us carry heavy things, it keeps us from spilling our water or coffee when we carry a full mug or jug, and so many other, everyday tasks.

The flexibility of the hand’s skin is another extraordinary thing.  Whether you are squeezing a ball, playing the piano, knitting a scarf or working in the garden, one would think that this tightening of the skin and friction of the bones as the hands move, would wear away the joints.  Yet it doesn’t, because the fat and muscle underneath the skin, protects these vital tendons.

Fingertips also reveal a lot – it tells you when something is too hot or cold, and it identifies the criminal on the basis of fingerprints.  Nobody in the whole world has the exact same fingerprints.  Another interesting fact is that our fingers are made up of bloodless joints, therefore our fingers feel the winter cold more than our face (where the muscles are filled with blood to keep it glowing and warm).

We often forget to take care of our hands; we forget that we need to stretch the hands and wrists in the same way we would the other parts of our body; yet we use our hands almost all day.  We also forget that our hands tell a story, that the way we use them when we communicate can say much more than the spoken word, and that it is our connection, as it were, to our brain and our thoughts.

In the Eastern cultures the people greet each other with palms joined.  It signifies the conjunction between positive and negative currents within everyone, as well as saluting / acknowledging the Divinity / Creator within everyone.  “I am you and you are me,” the Individual Spirit joining the Universal Spirit, the Oneness in many, Omnipresence, Universality; past and future are present.

In Indian dances hands and fingers are used extensively to express meanings.  In Yoga, when doing the Asanas, the hands are also used in different positions.  During breathing-exercises and meditation, different hand and finger-positions are used.

There is one thing to remember:  letting go of what is / what was!  Nothing can be achieved until we learn to let go completely.  When you grasp something and you hold on too tightly, you kill it, so to speak.  But when you open your hands slightly and you relax your grip, it can grow.  When you tell someone to “let go” it is not just a physical action, but also underlines the importance of letting go emotionally and psychologically as well.

Therefore, be grateful that you have arms, hands and fingers, that are healthy and usable.  They are not just used to physically do things, but also to grasp ideas, to reach out in love, to grasp reality, and to help us to move forward and let go of what was.

Chronobiology (Natural cycles)

Chronobiology is the study of physiological rhythm of the body’s internal “clock.” It is the natural rhythm that used to be in sync with the natural rhythms of time and seasons, in nature. Unfortunately it is consistently underrated and/or ignored by western medicine, when treating patients for stress and feeling tired all the time. 

In an article by Dr. Frank Lipman (in the Complete Yoga Journal-magazine), he explained that he went on a search, as it were, to find out why more and more patients / people in today’s world, is complaining about exhaustion, lack of sleep, having little / no sex drive, feeling as if they are “running on empty” and feeling and/or looking older than what they are.

In his quest for answers, Dr. Lipman realized that the only time he never saw patients that suffered from this, was when he was working in a rural area in South Africa.  People didn’t have electricity to stay warm during winter, so they went to bed when the sun went down, and got up when the sun came up.  Because there were no supermarkets, they had to eat what was in season.

Modern day stress syndrome has become epidemic; however, western medicine still does not recognize its existence, let alone have any answers for it!  Yet it has been proven that the human body has more than 100 Circadian rhythms that are roughly based on the 24-hour cycles in nature.  These natural cycles influence the body’s functions, for example the sleep- and wake cycles, the body’s temperature, the hormone levels, brain wave activity, heart rate, blood pressure an even pain threshold.  Although more people are admitting that these rhythms exist, many still ignore it or don’t appreciate it when it comes to our health and well-being.

Chinese medicine recognized that the human body (humans) do not exist in isolation; but that we are part of the natural world and governed by universal forces of nature.  Humans have internal “body clocks” that are set precisely to these rhythms and cycles.  The “master clock” is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a group of cells that are located in the hypothalamus.  The latter uses signals like light and darkness to stimulate the release of certain hormones and neurotransmitters, which tell us when to wake up or go to sleep.  When the SCN is destructed or disturbed, it results in a complete absence of a regular sleep/wake rhythm.  Natural light is the “drummer” in the human body’s physiological band that keeps the beat and it is this that our body clocks use to “get in tune” with the natural cycles.

Dr. Lipman delved deeper and looked into the field of genomics (the studying of genes).  This triggered an “aha-“moment for him.  He explained that, not only did we evolve over millennia as people who lived in harmony with day and night and seasons, but these cycles and rhythms became imprinted in our genes.  This is almost identical to that of our ancestors and it is still there, but modern society has pushed us into living at a foreign, unnatural pace.

The only time many of us become aware of our body’s natural rhythms (and its importance), is when we have jet lag.  Anybody who has flown over different time zones will tell you that they felt sluggish, tired, struggled sleeping, and so on.  This changes after a few days when your body’s internal clock adjusts again.

Modern society has isolated mankind from being in sync with these natural, cyclical rhythms, by creating artificial environments that insulate us from seasons, daylight and darkness.  Artificial light is used to extend our activities well into the night and/or day and we don’t get enough natural light.  This causes havoc; not only on our physical bodies, but also our emotional bodies.

Our bodies are made up of between 70% – 80% fluids (water) – is it any wonder then that the moon cycles, for example, can affect us just like it affects the oceans’ tides?  In the days when there were no artificial lights, and so on, people lived much closer to and in harmony with nature and its cycles. 

The above example is the bad news.  The good news is that the body, when given a chance, will heal itself an reset its genetic clock.  When your body’s natural rhythms are in sync, you have more energy, everyday tasks are easier to do, you don’t feel stressed or tired, and life is just easier and happier.  Athletes call this “being in the zone” or “having their game on.”

In his book Spent:  End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again (Hay House Books), Dr. Lipman gives these tips that will help you to reset your body’s clock and rediscover your natural rhythm:

  • Get some natural light during the day by going for a walk; preferably in nature;
  • Keep a consistent, daily schedule.  Regardless of what time you went to bed, get up every morning at the same time;
  • Have an “electronic sundown.”  At around 10 pm, turn off all your electronics – your cell phone, television, computer, and so on;
  • Darken your room completely.  Your bedroom should be completely dark.  Therefore, if there are any lights glimmering (like the cell phone charger, alarm clock, and so on), it can stop your melatonin levels from rising.  These levels are necessary to induce sleep and reach the level of deep, restorative sleep.  If you cannot darken the room (on airplanes, for example), wear an eye mask;
  • Eat in accordance with your body’s natural rhythms.  Because your metabolism peaks at noon, try to eat a bigger breakfast and lunch, and a smaller dinner.  If you and your family eat your main course in the evening, try to eat it before 19:00 and not later than 21:00.  There are people who struggle to eat a big breakfast.  Listen to your body but remember, your body cannot start its day “running on empty,” so eat something small or drink a smoothie.  Otherwise you will not only struggle with energy-dips and tiredness during the day, but when you skip breakfast, you will also struggle with and/or not be able to lose weight (if you are trying to). 
  • Good fats (Omega 3’s and 6’s) and protein are the energy-sources that your body needs for fuel during the day.  Having an egg and/or cheese with a slice of brown, rye or whole wheat toast, or a smoothie for breakfast, are good examples.  Cooked oats with cinnamon and honey / little bit of sugar, or rolled oats / muesli with added nuts and seeds, are also good to have for breakfast.  Sugary foods, like bagels, muffins, sugary cereals (like corn flakes) and other processed foods, are the worst choices when it comes to sustaining energy and fuel; let alone staying healthy – avoid it at all costs!   

In order to find “your groove,” remember; it is not just psychological but also physiological as well.  Small lifestyle changes can make you feel much more energetic, make you sleep better and reclaim your vitality! Listen to your body!!

Winter-time in the North

In today’s blog post I am going to share some tips on taking care of you and your loved ones as winter is creeping closer and closer, with some parts in the Northern Hemisphere even getting there first bouts of snow! Now is the time to start taking extra care of everybody’s health.

Start by taking extra vitamin B and vitamin C; especially a vitamin C that targets colds and flu (for example Viral Choice’s Vitamin C with Echinacea).  If you, or anyone in your family, suffer from a sensitive stomach, use buffered vitamin C (it comes in a powder and tablet form). Because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin (your body does not store it), it is necessary to take it on a daily basis.  

Do not take antibiotics (unless it becomes worse)!  Why?  Because colds and flu are caused by viruses and taking antibiotics will only target the bacteria that created the viruses in the first place.

Rather up your fluid intake, make a chicken soup / broth – you know; like the one your gran / mom always made?  And get plenty of rest!  Have a sore throat?  Gargle with salt stirred into warm water.  Salt is a natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory!  Blocked nose? Mix some salt with a little bit of bicarbonate of soda in warm water and sniff!?  It will help to clear your stuffy nose!

Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet, for example citrus fruits, kiwi, papaya, broccoli and spinach.  Eat foods that contain probiotics, for example yoghurt (a good immune-booster), add honey and/or garlic to your food and drinks (both have natural anti-inflammatory properties in) and oily fish for those omega 3 and 6-oils (another important immune system building block).

The last thing you want to do when it is freezing outside is to get up…and if the weather is dull…it makes it even harder! But; there is a way to get rid of those winter blues and that is…laughter!  Laughing gives your immune system a boost by raising the levels of antibodies in your white blood cells; helping them to fight off viruses and other infections.  Laughter, therefore, is the best medicine!

A very important habit for everyone (not just in winter) is to wash your hands when you come home from work, the shops, the gym or the school.  Don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose if you haven’t washed your hands yet and guard against using utensils of someone that is ill.  Teach the children to cover their mouths when they cough or their noses when they sneeze. 

Elderly people should take extra care during winter as they are more susceptible to illnesses.  Studies have shown that extra zinc (or a zinc supplement) not only boosts the immune system, but it can also shorten the duration of the cold (if taken within 24 hours after the cold started). 

Open the windows at home and let the crisp, fresh air blow through.  Staying in heating all the time and then going into the cold is not always such a good idea.  However, if you are indoors with the heater on, do remember to keep the air humidified.

An old tip from my late granddad:  when you go outside into the cold, cover your mouth!  Why?  Because breathing cold air in (especially if you are feeling a bit under the weather), can bring about a cold, flu and/or sore throat! 

All in all, winter does not have to be a time to dread!  In fact, there are many things to look forward to:  from dressing warm, walking in nature (keep active!) and enjoying the “different look” of the plants, to drinking hot chocolate (cacao) and snuggling under the duvet to watch a movie and laughing your blues away!

Me-time

I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe that we are already in the middle of October! Where has this year gone? It is as if life is getting busier as we are heading slowly (or faster) to the end of another year….

Already Christmas decorations are popping up all over! Many people say now is a good time to start thinking and buying all those presents, before prices go up and before stores get flooded with customers.

Not a bad idea, what do you think? As we move closer to the end of the year, not only are students buckling down, but adults can also feel stressed. It is quite natural to go through a dip, as it were, when your bio-rhythms are off. Thus it is important to take time-out, to relax and unwind, and not to neglect yourself.

The well-known doctor Phil McGraw a.k.a. Dr. Phil, once said “if you don’t take care of yourself first, then who will?” Something to always keep in mind; especially if you are head of a company, have a family to look after, or are single but living a busy life.

You might be thinking, by now, this is all good and easier said than done. No, it is not that difficult and here are a few tips to help you to have more me-time, feel less tired and have more energy for everything and everyone around you.

  1. Keep a journal – even if you write short sentences / words down; a journal is like that best friend that you can spill your heart to without being judged.
  2. Schedule “me time” every week – whether it’s going for a walk, to the gym, reading a book or just snuggling up on the couch with a cuppa and listening to your favourite music; take time off to just be with yourself.
  3. Eat healthy, regular meals and drink enough fluids (especially water). 
  4. If you find that you don’t have time to sit down for a meal, make sure that whatever you eat “on the go,” is healthy: whether it is a smoothie, a health bar, fruit and nuts. Eating processed and junk food, and drinking soft drinks, will only deplete your body from vitamins and minerals and will not provide you with the energy you need. You might feel you have more energy for a short while, but then your blood sugar drops lower than normal, and you are more tired and stressed than before.
  5. Diarize time to socialize with friends and family – a good supporting system can go a long way and, let’s face it, humans like to socialize!
  6. Remember that you are unique – value yourself the same way you would value friends, family, clients, colleagues.
  7. Even if you were “superwoman” or “superman” you cannot do everything for everybody!  Do your best in everything you do and that will be enough.
  8. Make time for meditation (quiet time) – switch off the phone, the laptop, take the phone off the hook, close the door and just breathe.  Slowly in, slowly out.  Focus your attention only on your breathing and block out any thoughts / sounds.  Doing this just 10 minutes a day will make a world’s difference.
  9. Get enough sleep! To keep up with today’s pace you need to make sure that your energy levels are up, your immune system is strong and that you give the body all the help it needs to stay healthy and fit.
  10. Deadline looming?  Instead of buckling down and working until you want to fall asleep, take a break from your desk, get up and get some fresh air.  Not only will it clear your mind, but it’ll give you energy to finish the task(s) at hand.
  11. Treat yourself once in a while.  Have a facial or massage, go on a short break or to your favourite restaurant with your favourite person(s). It will help you not only to relax, but to recharge your batteries too! Remember; you are worth it and deserve deserve it!
  12. Laugh more! In today’s world things are not only hectic, but also quite morbid – especially if you think of the news that we are bombarded with. Instead of listening to only the bad news, switch channels, watch a comedy, go out with friends, and laugh. Laughter is the best medicine…not only true but the cheapest way to lift your spirits, put you in a better mood and help you to get a more positive outlook on life in general.
  13. Struggling to “switch off?” Listen to relaxing music or listen to nature. Depending where you live, birdsong can be just as relaxing as instrumental or classical music.
  14. Make sure you take your multi-vitamin, vitamin C and extra vitamin B6 & B12, especially if you are stressed. When your immune system is run-down, then your chances of catching a cold / flu doubles.
  15. Lastly, if you feel great on the inside, it’ll show on the outside.  If you want to be successful, you have to dress the part (as the saying goes).  Thus, if you want to be your best at work, at home, at social events, then start by taking care of you…and the rest will follow!

Taking care of you – starts with you. Even when your financial situation is not in a good state, you can still laugh, you can still treat yourself to something you can afford, you can still be in nature and you can still get together with family and friends! We all know the saying: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade! An attitude of gratitude (one of Dr. John Demartini’s favourite quotes, and books), helps you to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Deep breathes in, deep breathes out. Just breathing in for 8 – 10 counts and exhaling for 8 – 10 counts, automatically slows down your heartrate (especially when stressed) and, as more oxygen enters the body, the mind starts to unwind, the muscles start to relax, and you can carry on!

Chin up; all things shall pass!! Remember, it has to rain in order for a rainbow to appear; never give up on yourself; you are the only you there is…

Coping with stress

It is that time of the year again when pupils, especially matrics, have to crunch down and study!  It is, sadly, also a time when many pupils (and students), cannot find ways to cope with their stress and commit suicide.

So, what can we, as parents, teachers, family and friends do to help each other cope with stress?

First, we have to distinguish between “good” and “bad” stress.  “Good” stress is when you are nervous about something, but you can handle the situation without going into a complete state of panic and a loss of words.  “Bad” stress is when you have so much stress and worries that you do not know how to cope with it.  It can also be linked to sadness and mourning (grieving).  This stress often builds up through time until one day it all just comes crashing down.

Adults (parents and teachers alike) play a big role in stress management, as children learn by example.  The way the adult(s) cope with stress will teach the child(ren) how to deal with their stress.  It is good to talk about what is bothering you, but it is not helping anyone if you either bottle your feelings up, going into a fit of rage / panic, or grabbing for an external coping mechanism (whether it be a drink, a cigarette or food).  Many people suffer from emotional eating disorders.  Others stop eating when they are stressed.  These are all signs to look out for – especially in young children who cannot always put their feelings into words.

How can one help each other then?

First, it is vital to have a support group, a best friend / confidante, that you can talk to without being judged;

For children it is important to know that mom and/or dad will always listen, without judgement or criticism. 

Often children get teased by other children and/or older siblings – watch for any signs in your child’s behaviour that changes all of a sudden, for example, the child doesn’t share their feelings / thoughts anymore.

Long-term stress can cause havoc on the system (both physically, emotionally and mentally).  Chronic inflammation can set in, causing anything from acne, allergies, premature ageing and strokes, to cancer, obesity, weight gain and intestinal issues.  It is thus vital to make sure that you get extra nutrients in in times of stress so that it can help the body to cope. These include:

Sweet potatoes:  low in starch but rich in antioxidants, vitamin E and beta carotene. 

Fatty / Oily fish:  Salmon, mackerel, tuna, yellowtail, sole and sardines are all high in Omega-3 fatty acids.  Pilchards are another good source of fatty acids.  Eating oily fish at least twice per week was found to reduce the risk of heart disease-development, which is often related to stress.  If you / someone in the family doesn’t like oily fish, make sure to buy a good omega-3 supplement. 

Nuts and seeds (e.g. sesame and sunflower seeds):  full of healthy fats, protein, essential vitamins, minerals, fibres and antioxidants.  Do remember to eat nuts in moderation, as they are high in kilojoules.

Berries:  high in antioxidants and low in fat and kilojoules.  Blueberries, for example, can help to reduce oxidative stress and protect the body against ulcerative colitis and intestinal-inflammation.  Red raspberry extract, according to studies done, helps to prevent arthritis-development in animals.  Research has also shown that women who eat more strawberries, have lower levels of C-reactive protein CRP in the blood (it is a substance produced by the liver that increases when there is stress in the body).  Fresh or frozen, add berries to your shopping list and add them to your muesli, yoghurt, dessert or smoothies.

Whole grains:  oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, barley and wheat, are all whole grains.  Whole grains contain more fibre and keeps your blood sugar levels even (unlike refined starches that can play havoc on your blood sugar levels and make you drowsy when you need to be alert for studying).

Cold-pressed Olive oil:  good source of Omega 3’s, it contains natural anti-inflammatory properties and is good “food” for both your brain and your heart.  Another good source is flaxseed oil. 

If anybody is allergic to shellfish, make sure that the Omega-3 supplement is not using shellfish.  At DisChem you can buy Omega 3:6:9-supplement in liquid form made from seeds. 

You can also add eggs, chicken and lots of raw fruits and vegetables to your meals.  Eliminate, as far as possible, refined sugars and carbohydrates, caffeine, nicotine and artificial colouring (especially found in processed meals).

Vitamins and minerals: they are vital during this time.  Taking extra supplements will help the brain to function more optimally and will help keep your immune system-levels high.  Vitamin C is important to maintain a strong immune system.  Vitamin B plays a key role here, because when you stress the body uses vitamins B6 & B12 first. Zinc and vitamin D are also very important for cognitive function and stability of the brain and nervous system.  A good supplement of calcium and magnesium (with added zinc and vitamin D), vitamin C and a multi-vitamin B supplement are advised.  An excellent, natural remedy to help you and/or your child or partner cope with stress, is Rescue Remedy. In South Africa you get the drops and the tablets. It calms you down without making you drowsy, weepy or over-emotional.

Exercise:  just as eating a healthy, balanced meal is important, so too is exercise.  Whether you go for a walk or a run, skip rope or ride a bicycle, get out into the fresh air (or the gym if you prefer) and get away from the books and the stress.  Exercise in any form will help the body to excrete serotonin – the “happy” hormone, that helps the body to not only cope with stress, but also get rid of it.  A clear head and a state of calmness, will give you more clarity about a situation and will help you to study better. 

Sleep:  it is very important that you get a good night’s rest on a regular basis.  Not only is it a time when the body regenerates itself, but it is also a time when the brain can relax and rewire.  Do make sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet.  If you struggle to meditate and/or sleep; remember:  always switch your cell phone, laptop and/or television off at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.  It you look at either of the screens just before you put your light out the brain “stays awake” as it were and you will struggle to fall asleep.  Still struggling and counting sheep?  Have some warm milk with cinnamon in; or shower with / bath in lavender.  You can also place some lavender under your pillow.  Both will help to calm you down and stop you from counting sheep the whole night!

Taking enough breaks:  the minute you start to feel tired or your brain feels fuzzy, get up, go for a walk and get some fresh air.  Even taking catnaps in-between your studying can do wonders for the body, the brain and your eyes!  Just looking out the window (without concentrating hard), can help to relax your eyes and brain.

Meditate:  it is vital that you take breaks and relax, breathe deeply and just forget for a moment about the stress / upcoming exam.  You can focus on your breathing, listen to calm music, the birds outside, take a shower or bath, and just become still.

Laugh:  laughter is the best medicine – something that has been said time and time again.  Watch a comedy, read a funny book, make a note to laugh when you are out with your friends, smile and tell funny jokes!   Not only will you look and feel younger, but laughing produces serotonin (the “happy hormone”), which reduces anxiety and stress, and also helps us to cope better during stressful periods.

Study-area:  make sure that your study-nook is clean and tidy.  Get rid of clutter and things that is not important when you are busy studying.  Make sure the room is well ventilated and there is enough natural light coming in. 

Water:  make sure that you drink enough water during this time.  Staying hydrated not only keeps your energy levels up, but also keeps your brain-cells active.

Some tips from Doctor Gillian Mooney (dean of academic development and support at The Independent Institute of Education) to gear young adults alike for the future:

  1. Be well organized – get into the habit of doing daily administrative and organizational tasks;
  2. Boost your computer skills – taking notes faster will help to improve productivity;
  3. Be a multitasker – instead of playing computer games or listening to music when you take a break, download an app / audiobook / game about the subject that you are studying;
  4. Changing times – teach children from a young age that learning and studying is a life-long process.  “Life is a journey, not a destination.” 
  5. The saying goes “one is never too old to learn.”  This is important to remember, because to be able to learn new skills in the workplace, for example, and to be able to multitask, are two of the important factors that employees look for today.

All in all, studying can be fun, it can be something that you enjoy, as long as you find a method that works for you and you use your time wisely.  Many schoolchildren and students who obtain many distinctions all say one thing:  the more you listen in class (and/or take notes), then less you have to study at home!  Going over the work done in the class the same day will help you to remember it better. 

Good luck to all the children, students and their family, for the upcoming exam-period!  Do your best and the rest will follow!

Tidying your space

Every year we spring-clean our home and go through all our clothes, kitchenware and bathroom goodies, to not only clean the house from top to bottom, but also to get rid of things that are no longer used, has rarely ever been used, or that has passed its date.

However, there are still things in my cupboards that has not been used recently (or even in the last few years I must admit), but it is still there.  As my brother sometimes says – you don’t clean the cupboards, you just reshuffle everything in it!

Decluttering your home and office space once a year is something that shouldn’t bring you down, although some people find it hard to throw away / give away things and instead hoard.

According to psychological research clutter affects the brain’s ability to concentrate and process information, and it has a powerful effect on your mood and self-esteem.  Ever felt overwhelmed?  It is the same with hoarding…. you know you have to start somewhere but you don’t know where, so in the end you leave it.  Psychologists also believe that hoarding is linked to deep seated emotional issues; which can be anything from scared of letting go, to a low self-image.

Cory Cook, a time-management expert, believes that people must start to change their attitude and believes towards things:  we hold the power over things, not things over us!

Here are six ways that she gives to declutter and tidy your space:

  1. Limit the load:  instead of keeping each and every picture that your child made, save one or two and bin the others.  Your subconscious brain only stores the most important pictures / things; the person should be the important one, not the item.
  2. Clear your bedroom:  put away the washing and the cell phones.  Linda Blair, clinical psychologist, states that “if the clutter reminds you that you have a job to do, then it’s the equivalent of having electronic devices in your room pinging away, demanding your attention.”  Add to that that you will deprive yourself of a good night’s rest if you look at the screen (of a cell phone and/or television) just before you put off the light (as it has been proven that the flickering of the screen, although not visible with your eyes, is registered by your brain, thus it keeps your brain active instead of settling down to sleep)!  Your bedroom, after all, should be like your bathroom – a sanctuary where you can relax and sleep; not a place where you work.  It is fashion to have a television in your bedroom, but many experts believe that romance will fly out the door when you bring a television into the room!  Instead, enjoy your own and/or each other’s company or read a book before you put the lights off.
  3. Do good: donate your stuff that has been sitting in your cupboards forever without being used to either a charity, or give something to someone that will use it.  According to Linda decluttering and giving things away releases a feel-good hormone called oxytocin.  Knowing unused things are used and appreciated by someone else can be a very satisfying feeling.
  4. Clear the kitchen:  having too many things in the kitchen can easily deter someone from cooking a healthy meal and, instead opt for a quick, unhealthy fast food meal.  Clear the countertops in the kitchen; have a designated area where you put your keys, for example, and pack away things that are not supposed to be in the kitchen.  In an article I read recently, the lady said that she steered clear of the kitchen most of the time because it wasn’t functional.  In her case, they saved money and redid the kitchen.  Now she loves cooking for her family and trying out new recipes.  Whether your kitchen needs a lick of paint or just some decluttering; a small / big change can make all the difference!
  5. Getting energised:  according to Feng Shui your home’s entrance can immediately influence your energy levels when you walk through the front door.  If this is where the schoolbags go, or the raincoats (for example), keep it neat (either in a cupboard, in a row or on a hook).  If you have a table at your entrance, keep it clean and the décor minimalistic.  A tidy home makes you feel content and safe; knowing that unscheduled visits are welcome!
  6. Feel more focused:  piles of paperwork can be a problem.  Many people say it is good to keep important account receipts for 5 years, then shred it.  When it comes to magazines and newspapers, Cory suggests finish reading them before you buy a new one.  If there is information in that you want to keep, make a folder and tear out only the page(s) you want to read again. Clearing out will give you an instant lift and “clear your head.”

Marie Kondo, author of Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying, suggests that you must ask yourself if something sparks joy.  Hold an item with both hands, have a good look at it and pay attention to how your body reacts to it.  If it doesn’t bring you joy, your body will feel heavier. 

Another tip is to keep similar items together (glassware in one cupboard, plates in another).  Marie also suggests that you should have a filing system for your home-paperwork (as you would in the office).  Place the important ones like bills in a pending box / folder and the rest in another box / folder.  First sort out the ones in the pending box then start with the rest. 

If you don’t know where to start, start in one room and finish that one completely.  Place things in different piles: staying, not sure and giving away (throwing out).  Once everything has been sorted out and packed away, move on to the next room.  Families can do this together; thereby teaching children to be organized, neat and (as stated above), teaching them that you have power over things, not things over you!

There is no time like the present to start spring-cleaning…so better to start and get it done!  Good luck everyone!